As part of my occasional “science in the morning” postings:
The Washington Post had this
article this morning, describing an exciting discovery in the field of cell biology.
Originally published in this
article in the journal Cell, it
seems that scientists have discovered a gene that plays a crucial role in letting
mouse stem cells develop into any other cell. The property to develop into skin, liver,
brain, nerve, or whatever other type of cells is called pluripotency,
and understanding how it works may be crucial to developing new treatments for everything
from paralysis to old age.
The gene has been dubbed nanog,
a reference to the mythical Celtic fairy land of Tir Nan Og, a land of eternal youth.
If scientists are successful in the logical next step of the experiments – being
able to create human stem cells from any cell in the body – that name could
be prophetic: this technology may have the potential to lengthen the human lifespan